Sunday, May 4, 2014

Apology and Update

I would like to apologize for my lack of blogs. I started off so well! Once school became busier and trips became more frequent, it became more and more difficult for me to keep up. I have a blog written already for Stockholm which I need to add photos to and upload. But I would like to give a brief idea about what I've done and what's in store for me over the next few weeks. I plan to go back and write about each of my adventures, partly as a memento to remember my experiences through, but also because I love being able to share this with my friends and family.

After visiting Munich the weekend before my birthday, Ken and I made a three day stop in Vienna. What a beautiful city! While there we went to a concert, went on two different tours, and ate wonderful food. We journeyed to our final destination, Prague, which is where I would spend my 21st birthday. Prague was amazing and beautiful. My only regret is waiting until the end of my trip to go. I was so tired that it was hard to see and do as much as I had when we were in Munich and Vienna.

After Prague I had to return to Grenoble for four days of classes. The days went by quickly, and with the end of my online course it made for a busy week. On Friday, March 14th I headed to Paris with Ken. Jamie would be meeting us there as well. The last time I was there I was a toddler, and don't remember a bit of it. However, I have been reminded several times about my childish behavior from family members. In my defense, even as an adult, my feet got very tired after all that walking! By Monday when it was time to head back to Grenoble, I was more than ready for a break from traveling.

The break was short lived due to my Scandinavian trip which would start that Saturday. Only 5 days at home before I was off again! I'm sure many of you are wondering how I ever went to class with all this traveling. To be completely honest, apart from two days I spent at home in February due to illness, I was a very dedicated student.

On Saturday my friend Lucy and I traveled to Geneva for a day trip and then headed up to Stockholm. We spent about a day and a half in each place we went in Scandinavia. From Stockholm we traveled West to Oslo which was very pleasant. From there we did "Norway in a Nutshell" which brought us from Oslo to Bergen over the course of 12 hours through the Fjord. We spent one day in Bergen which was plenty. My dad told me he spent 3 days there when he was younger! I can't imagine what he did that whole time. Finally we flew from Bergen to Copenhagen for the last leg of our trip. I definitely fell in love with Copenhagen. I'm jealous of my friend Liana who will get to spend all of next semester there for her study abroad.

So to sum up the month of March... I visited eight different countries and ten different cities. Wow!

In April, my dad was coming to visit starting the first weekend. I was very excited for this and was counting down the days until I would see him throughout most of my Scandinavian trip. We met in the Paris Airport and spent the weekend in Paris. I had to come back for class on Monday, but my dad enjoyed getting to know Grenoble. On Friday I only had one morning class, so we took a day trip to Lyon and had a very nice time. On Saturday, my dad's cousin Tony and his wife Pascale picked us up and took us to four different French cities over the course of 2 days. We had a very pleasant time together and I hope to see them again. On Sunday night my dad headed back to Paris to catch his Monday morning flight and I headed back to Grenoble for another week of class.

The following weekend my friend Catriona was able to visit me. She is currently studying in Siena, Italy. We made a trip up to the French Alps which was very different than my previous visits there. The conditions for skiing weren't very good, but we did it anyway. On Sunday we were expecting rain, but when the sun came out instead, we decided to take a hike in Grenoble and then see a movie in the afternoon.

The final weekend of April, I headed back up to Paris to meet my friend Dylan who is currently studying in Glasgow, Scotland. We spent Friday exploring Paris and seeing the main sights. On Saturday we headed to Versailles for the day, which was too crowded to enjoy. And it was raining as well, so the gardens weren't very enjoyable either. That evening we headed north to Normandy. On Sunday we took a tour up to see Omaha Beach which was breathtaking. Normandy was one of my top destination for my travels in France and I was so happy I could go. Dylan and I had a very nice time. Monday morning I headed back for Grenoble and had a final exam a 2 PM! I really like to cram things in.

On Tuesday I left again for a trip to southern France with my friend Zoe. She was leaving in a few days and wanted to see the French Rivera before she left, as did I. We visited Nice on Tuesday, Monaco on Wednesday, and Cannes on Thursday. Needless to say, by the time I got back to Grenoble I was in desperate need of a break.

I will be heading to London on Wednesday, but I have given myself 5 days of pure relaxation before my trip, which I am using to my full potential. Tomorrow I plan to take a day trip to Annecy, but apart from that I plan to do nothing but prepare for my upcoming trips, sleep a lot, clean, and do my final two papers for school. I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by and how lucky I have been do experience
so many amazing things.

Much love to all!

Au Revoir!

Monday, March 17, 2014


On Friday night Jamie, Ken, and I arrived in Munich at 10 PM. After about a four hour train ride from Strasbourg we were completely exhausted. Since I am currently taking an online class as well I had some homework that I had to complete by Monday night so Jamie and Ken had some drinks and sat with me while I did my work. We had a very nice room at the 4you hostel with a private bathroom and 3 twin beds. We all slept very well that night since Jamie didn't have bed space for us the night before. Definitely more comfortable than the floor! 

Saturday was Jamie's only day with us in Munich so we tried to do things that she wanted since she had less time. We did the free walking tour of the city to start out our trip. This is always one of my favorite things to do to learn about each city I go to. The tour as usual was 3 hours long. Our tour guide was from just outside Munich originally and had lived in Florida for about half her life with her parents before deciding to move back. I definitely think my theory about tour guides who are originally from the cities they are talking about always make the tour better. Virginia was our tour guide and she was fantastic. On this tour she actually took us inside one of the churches which was really nice to see inside. We learned a lot about the Third Reich and the rise of Hitler and his influence on Munich. In addition we learned about various kings and queens who were in power in Munich. And finally, we learned a lot about the influence and traditions of beer in Munich. It's pretty amazing how much influence beer has had on Bavaria. We would later learn the difference between beer in the US and beer in Munich. 

After the tour we decided to stop in the outdoor beer-garden/market for lunch. We each had a beer and sausage on a roll. We walked around the market a bit and then decided to look for the Englischer Garten. Although the weather was cold and cloudy it was still a beautiful park to see. We didn't spend too much time in the park but what we saw of it was really nice. After the park we walked back into the center city and looked in a few shops and walked around. We were starting to get hungry around 5:30 so we decided to find something for dinner. We stumbled upon an authentic German restaurant which was delicious. For dinner I had beef with gravy and a dumpling and for desert I had an apple strudel with vanilla sauce. 

After dinner we went to one of the most famous beer halls in Munich. The three of us all got our Hofbräuhaus beer and enjoyed the environment of the beer hall. It was definitely and experience I would recommend to everyone. It is not something you can really explain very well. They were enormous rooms filled will long tables. Each table was jammed with as many people as possible which encourages you to talk with your neighbors. We spent a couple hours there and then decided to finally head back to our hostel. We stayed up and talked for a little while but we were all pretty tired and Jamie had to get up very early to catch her bus. 

The next morning when I woke up Jamie was gone. We will be seeing her again in Paris in a couple if weeks. On day two Ken and I decided to go to the Dachau concentration camp. We decided to go there with a tour guide to help us get there and also to give us a little more of the history behind the camp once we were there. It was another cold cloudy day. The camp was very eerie. We walked around the entire camp. Dachau was the first camp that was built and every one after was modeled after this one. We first saw the roll call area. Our guide told us the length at which it would often take place in order to further torture the prisoners. There was a museum inside the main building of the camp which the tour guide didn't give us time to look at which was disappointing. He pulled out a few major points that he wanted to touch on, but it would have been nice to look around a little more. We watch a video on the liberation of the camp and learned how the Americans responded to what they saw. We saw the sleeping quarters and the progression through time of the amount of space the prisoners were given to sleep. We saw the religious memorials for the victims of the camp and learned about why and when they were each built. Our final stop was the gas chambers and infirmary. We learned that there was no proof that the gas chambers ever were used at this camp, but because of the brutality of the camp and the experiments being done it was assumed that at some point they were likely used. Although I have learned about WWII and the holocaust before, coming to Munich has really made me want to educate myself more on the entirety of this time period. We talked about how around the world we can still see things like this taking place. WWII had a huge impact on my family and seeing the camp first hand really changed something inside of me. I left the camp feeling sick and uncomfortable. How could anyone be so cruel and how could so many people claim to not know what was going on? It just does make sense. 

After the camp we made our way back to Munich. I had to go to the hostel to do some more work for my online class before going to dinner. We decided to go to a beer hall for dinner that night. We chose the Augustine beer hall to try something different. For dinner I had duck, red cabbage, and a dumpling. Everything was very delicious and by the end of the meal I was completely warn out. We made our way back to the hostel and shortly after went to sleep. 

On our third and final day in Munich we ventured again on a tour to see the Neuschwanstein castle about two hours south of Munich. To give you and idea of what we expected just imagine the famous castle at Disney World (which was actually modeled after this castle). 

When we arrived we sat down and had lunch which consisted of curry wurst and fries. We slowly made our way around the area and saw the original castle where King Ludwig II grew up. We saw a beautiful lake where you could see Austria's mountain in the distance. We learned about the king and what led to him building three castles, one of which was Neuschwanstein. We then hiked our way up the mountain to the castle. The closer we got, the more amazing it became. I literally felt as though I was in a fairytale. We took a tour of the castle which was built over a period of 17 years. Every room was built as part of the king's playful imagination and to exact specifications of the king. If there was something on a wall at all he did not like, he would find someone new to completely start the project over. To give you and idea, it took 4 years to finish his bedroom. The castle actually was never completed because at 40 years old the king died during the middle of construction. He lived in the castle for a total of 172 days. 

After we left the castle (where we could not take pictures), Ken and I lost the rest of the group. Our tour guide had told us where we were going next as well as where to meet and when if we did happen to get separated. So we made our way toward the bridge where we could get a better view of the castle. On our way there it began to snow. It felt so magical. 

The view was INCREDIBLE. It was so beautiful I could have stood there all day if it had been a little warmer. 

We took several pictures and then decided to head back down the hill. On our way down we ran into our tour guide and the rest of our group so we headed back up to the bridge again with them. 

We walked down the mountain along an off-road path rather than going the same way. When we got to the bottom we played with and fed the horses that people often take with cartridges up the mountain. I wanted to look in a couple shops so I had Ken run ahead and find out where the group would be. He said we would be leaving an hour later than the original plan because one of the guys in our group took the horse carriage and it took 40 minutes to wait for it. When we went down to the bus station our group was no where to be found. Luckily we found the Spanish group and they brought us back to the train where we finally met back up with our group. Ken and I decided to call ourselves "the problem children." It was sadly too true.

When we got back into the city we had dinner at a nice restaurant in the downtown area before we had to pack up our bags and catch our 10 PM bus to Vienna. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A quick visit to Strasbourg

After a weekend skiing in the alps again and getting a little tan and then a week of being sick and studying international finance my birthday trip would finally begin. I had 11 days off of school and I intended to travel every minute I had. 

I first made my way north in France to Strasbourg where I would meet Jamie and Ken. The two of them spent a week in Italy traveling to Rome and Venice. When I arrived my two friends were waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. After such a long time it was great to see them both. We went back to Jamie's apartment which was very similar to a college dorm to drop off my luggage. I then saw the horror that ken brought along that he called a weeks worth of clothing. Jamie concluded that you could easily fit a person inside of his suitcase. Needless to say it took up a majority of the floor in her room. 

We then decided to head out for dinner. Jamie took us to a pizza place where her school had brought the international students on her first few days there. We had a great time and the food was fantastic. We talked a lot about their trip to Italy and it was really fun to hear about all of their adventures. 

When we got back to Jamie's place we set up our beds for the night. Ken and I shared the floor after moving his giant suitcase so we would have space. It was definitely not a good nights sleep. I was cold and uncomfortable but it was only for one night and it was free! So I didn't mind too much. Also Ken gave me his blanket when he realized how cold I was. I think that says a lot about him! 

The next morning we woke up easily because we didn't want to be on the floor any longer. We all took showers and got ready to hit the town. Jamie showed us the city center and little France, which was beautiful. We then had a wonderful sushi lunch. 

Jamie took us to the famous cathedral in Strasbourg and on our way there we saw a mini carnival going on. We decided to stop and grab some crêpes and hot wine and enjoy the warm weather. The cathedrale was beautiful. Jamie and I walked around inside while ken decided he wanted to climb to the top. Jamie had already gone before and I had done it in Bordeaux so I thought it might be similar. Neither of us really had any desire to do it. Somehow ken managed to go all the way up and come back down in 20 minutes. Jamie and I are convinced he never actually made it to the top. 
Afterwards we took a look at the European Parliament building and walked around it a little before heading back to Jamie's place to get our luggage. Next stop, Munich! 

Au revoir! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

A little taste of France: Weekend away in Bordeaux and Toulouse

On Valentine's day this year, me and one of my other single friends here ventured off to Bordeaux. We spent the entire morning traveling. It actually took much longer to get to Bordeaux than it did when I traveled to Brussels or back from Amsterdam. It took us three different trains to get us to Bordeaux. It was a very long morning, but Miki and I slept the majority of the way there.

Once we arrived we dropped off our luggage in the hotel which was directly across from the train station and ventured into the city. We walked into an art school and had fun looking around there. Next we visited the St. Andre Cathedral, which was one of the major three of Bordeaux. We found the main bridge in Bordeaux and took a stroll across to the other side and then came back again. From there we tried to find the tourism center to find out about doing a wine tour the next day. We found it relatively quickly and signed up to go the next day. 

We then walked around the main part of the city and saw the fountain which was beautiful. We then decided at 7 to find something for dinner. Since it was valentines day we found a great restaurant right on the river but we had to be finished within 1 hour because of the reservations they had coming in at 8. It worked out perfectly and when 8 rolled by there were still some empty tables so it was no problem at all. 

After dinner we were exhausted from the travel and walking so we decided to head back to the hotel. Plus it was almost 9 PM by this point anyway. 

The next morning we woke up and made our way to the wine museum. We learned a lot about the history of wine in Bordeaux which was very interesting. We got two wine tastings at the museum at the end from two different wine regions in Bordeaux. Both were very good!

After the museum we went to find a quick lunch and then made our way to the bus for the wine tour. 

We were taken to a family owned winery first. The process is done with such care and the couple who owns it tastes the wine until they have the perfect combination. The wine there was excellent and they had a plate of cheese and crackers as a pallet cleanser between the two wines. The second wine was definitely my favorite. 2009 was supposedly one of the best years for the Bordeaux region. 

The second winery we went to was a much older larger scale one. The process was done primarily by machines uses the latest technologies to perfectly blend the wine. Miki and I felt as though during the wine tasting you could definitely tell this. Neither of us liked the two types of wine we were given to try. 

We got back into the city around 6:30 PM where we met Zoe. The three of us found a nice seafood restaurant by the river again to eat dinner. I had soup and salmon which were both unbelievably delicious! 

After dinner we walked along the river and saw the bridge lit up as well as a couple other buildings, which all looked incredible at night. 

On Sunday we took another walk across the bridge. Since Zoe wasn't with us the first day she didn't get to walk on it yet and we didn't mind doing it again. We visited a church that was across the river and then headed back to the main part of the city. 

We then made our way to the Notre Dame Church in Bordeaux. We found out that we could walk up to the top to get a better view of the city so we decided to do that. The walk wasn't so horrible and the view was absolutely amazing. However, the walk down was so terrible. I was so scared and moved so slowly. I was moving as if I had never walked down a flight of stairs before in my life. 

When I finally got to the bottom there was a small market where I found some really good homemade grape juice which I could also use to make sangria by adding wine. After that we headed to the train station to head to Toulouse. 

On Sunday, February, 16th we made our way to Toulouse from Bordeaux in the afternoon. We only knew of a few attractions there and weren't expecting much. As soon as we arrived we headed off toward the city center. We saw the center square and the Theatre du Capitole. Beneath the center archway there was a man playing music with an interesting instrument that livened up the square.

We made our way toward the river next to see the sunset. We walked over the bridge to cross the river and then came back. Miki and Zoe love taking photos so I told them I wanted to walk down by the river and the come back and meet them. The sky was unbelievable and there were so many people out walking and jogging with their friends and family. It was a pretty amazing atmosphere. By the time I met up with the girls again the sky was very dark and we decided we should start looking for a place to have dinner. We headed back toward the main square and found a very nice restaurant. I had a tilapia and lemon pie for dessert. After dinner we were all very tired and decided to head back to the hotel for the night. 

The next morning we felt as though we had already seen most of the major points of the city. We decided to walk the other direction though and found the Jordan gardens. We spent a long time there because it was such a beautiful day and the girls loved taking pictures. From there we did a little shopping and Zoe and I found a nice place to have lunch. Miki wanted to shop more and eat at Subway so she didn't come with us. After lunch Zoe and I made our way to the church. We had walked past it several times the night before but we wanted to see inside as well. 
We didn't have much time afterward before we had to catch our train. We did a little more shopping and then made our way back home to Grenoble. 

Au revoir!